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9:03 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Measure would shift redistricting to lawmakers

PHOENIX - Arizona voters would decide whether to put redistricting back in the hands of state lawmakers and the governor under a proposal endorsed by a Senate committee as Republicans renewed their criticism of the state redistricting commission.

The resolution approved the Government Reform Committee on a 4-2 party line vote Wednesday is sponsored by 20 of 21 majority Senate Republicans.

The plan is an alternative to a stalled proposal by House Speaker Andy Tobin that would revamp the Independent Redistricting Commission. The Senate proposal instead eliminates the commission outright.

Both proposals would be subject to voter approval in November because both would amend the Arizona Constitution.

Voters in 2000 approved an initiative creating the five-member commission and making it responsible for the once-a-decade redrawing of new congressional and legislative districts.

Republican legislators have accused the commission of violating constitutional mapping criteria and processes, and the Republican-led Senate ratified Gov. Jan Brewer's removal of the commission's independent chairwoman.

However, the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated the official, saying Brewer acted without constitutional grounds.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said Republicans are kidding themselves if they think voters will trust the Legislature and the governor with drawing election maps.

"You're going to see the same result on election day as in 2000 ... that says the state Legislature should not be in the business of drawing these lines," Gallardo said. "They want an independent, nonbiased committee."

The Senate resolution's sponsor, Majority Leader Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the commission's appointed members are unaccountable, thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling.

"For me it's not the maps, it's the process and the procedure," Biggs said.

However, at least three other GOP senators criticized how their districts were redrawn.

"What they did to my district is laughable," said Sen. Steve Smith, a Maricopa Republican who has chosen to run instead for a House seat instead of facing a fellow Senate Republican who now will be in the same district.

Gallardo said he might support a restructuring of the commission, such as adding more members so the independent chair doesn't provide the only swing vote between the panel's Democratic and Republican members.

Sen. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, noted the Republicans' criticism of the commission's processes but said the Legislature has its own issues. He cited the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman's refusal to allow public testimony during budget hearings and the Senate Republicans' closed-door briefing on a policy issue.